Drudge advances false claim that Rep. Owens "broke four promises in one hour" by voting for House health care bill


A Drudge-hyped article claimed that Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY), in his first day in office, broke four campaign promises at once by voting for the House health care bill. In fact, in accusing Owens of breaking campaign promises, the article misrepresented both Owens' campaign positions and provisions of the House's health care bill.

Right-wing media accuse Owens of breaking promises in health care vote

Drudge: "New Congressman breaks 4 campaign promises in first hour." From the Drudge Report:


The Gouverneur Times: "Owens Breaks 4 Campaign Promises in first hour in Congress." A November 7 article advanced by the Drudge Report in the publication The Gouverneur Times claimed that Owens broke four campaign promises by voting for the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The article stated that "Mr. Owens assured voters that he felt the public option had no place in the health care reform bill. ... Mr. Owens also indicated during his campaign that he was firmly opposed to cutting Medicare benefits, taxing health care benefits, and increased taxes on the middle class in any way."

Washington Times: "NY23's Rep. Bill Owens continues to blow off press questions on health care vote." A November 7 post on The Washington Times' Water Cooler blog linked to The Gouverneur Times report and repeated many of the same claims about Owens' alleged broken campaign promises. The Washington Times reported: "Mr. Owens is being accused by a local newspaper in his district for breaking several campaign promises. H.R. 3962 does have a public option written into the bill. It seems Mr. Owens has been playing flip-flop a few times with his support of the public option in the bill. ... Mr. Owens also said he was opposed to cutting medicare benefits, increased taxes on the middle class, and taxing health care benefits."

But Drudge-hyped article misrepresented both Owens' positions and the House health care bill

Owens had recently endorsed the public option. As Media Matters for America has noted, Owens endorsed the public option in the House's bill during an October 30 debate. The Gouverneur Times initially reported that Owens "assured voters that he felt the public option had no place in the health care reform bill," but later updated its article to include Owens' October 30 endorsement. Despite this, both The Gouverneur Times and the Drudge Report continued to run the false headline that Owens broke four campaign promises in voting for the House health bill, one of which being the claim that he didn't support a public option.

Gouverneur Times misleadingly claims House bill would increase taxes on middle class. While the article did not specify how the legislation would increase taxes on the middle class, as Bloomberg reported, the House bill "would add a surtax on the wealthiest Americans, starting with couples who earn more than $1 million a year." The bill would impose a tax on those who did not buy qualifying health insurance. In order to help individuals and families afford health insurance, the legislation creates caps on premiums and subsidies. According to the Congressional Budget Office, families of four making $90,100 or less will benefit from premium caps, and families making $78,000 or less would receive benefits from both the premium caps in the legislation and from subsidies on cost-sharing, which encompass certain out-of-pocket expenses. Both benefits are offered on a sliding scale, with more significant subsidies for families making less.

Gouverneur Times misrepresented FactCheck.org to suggest House bill contained significant Medicare cuts. The Gouverneur article claimed that Owens voted for a bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, which Owens opposed during the campaign. The article reported that "[b]oth FactCheck.org and the Congressional Budget Office agree that HR 3962 contains potentially hundreds of billions of dollars in planned cuts to Medicare." In fact, when House Minority Leader John Boehner issued a press release citing FactCheck.org to make the similar claim, FactCheck.org issued a statement entitled, "Boehner Misrepresents FactCheck.org's Findings," asking for its name to be removed from Boehner's press release. FactCheck.org stated, "We never have said that seniors would suffer 'massive cuts to Medicare benefits' under the pending House or Senate overhaul bills, and in fact have done our best to debunk claims to that effect." FactCheck.org added:

The only seniors who might see cuts are those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, about 22 percent of the Medicare population. Currently, many of those seniors receive a bit more in benefits than regular Medicare fee-for-service patients - perhaps a gym membership, a pair of eyeglasses, a reduced premium. But, as we've written, Medicare pays the private companies that administer Medicare Advantage about 14 percent more per beneficiary than it does for the rest of Medicare beneficiaries, who wind up subsidizing the program, according to government analysts.

If current law didn't change, the value of the additional benefits given under Medicare Advantage would amount to about $85 per senior per month in 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If the Senate bill passed (and the House bill is similar on this point), that would be reduced to about $42 per month. But under no circumstances would any senior receive less in benefits than the other 78 percent of the Medicare population.

The bill does not tax health benefits. The Gouverneur article also claimed Owens's vote stood in conflict with his opposition to legislation that taxes health benefits. But, while the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform proposal includes a provision which would tax high-cost "Cadillac" health care plans, Owens voted for H.R. 3962, which does not tax health benefits.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
The Drudge Report, The Washington Times
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